When the Tigers acquired lefthander Jairo Labourt he was a touted starting pitcher.
Now it appears his future will be spent in the bullpen.
Labourt has thrived since the Tigers moved him to the bullpen during the 2016 season. He didn’t miss a beat when promoted from high Class A Lakeland to Double-A Erie early this season.
“He’s got a good arm,” farm director Dave Owen said. “He’s made some very nice strides . . . He’s got a lot of confidence right now. He’s got two plus pitches in his fastball and his slider.
“He’s doing some good things right now.”
Labourt struck out 22 and allowed only one earned run (0.66 ERA) in eight games at Lakeland. He recorded a 2.65 ERA in his first 10 appearances at the Double-A level.
The 23-year-old Labourt has always stood out for his fastball. It helped him to earn a spot in the Futures Game in 2015, where he reached 96 mph, shortly before he joined the Tigers as part of the deal that sent David Price to the Blue Jays.
Toronto originally signed Labourt out of the Dominican Republic in 2011.
Owen said Labourt’s fastball sits at 94 mph but can get up to 97. His slider is another solid pitch in his arsenal, while his changeup isn’t nearly as well developed as his top two pitches and doesn’t get used much now that he’s a reliever.
“He’s got two power pitches,” Owen said. “Right now, you don’t see him strictly as a left-on-left guy. He’s got enough power in there that he can pitch to righties, too.”
Command held Labourt back as a starter. He averaged 4.9 walks per nine innings in seven seasons in the minors and walked 70 in 87.1 innings last season.
But Labourt had walked just five batters in his first 18 appearances spanning 30.2 innings this season.